Creede Cut-off Alt?

9/16-17: 15mi

So what was supposed to be the Creede alternate for us became somewhat convoluted. With five miles of dirt road walking left to get into Creede, a couple pulled over and asked us for directions. All we knew is that we were headed to Creede. They said that’s where they were heading but got turned around. We showed them our Guthook app and our route, and that helped them get their bearings. As they were headed into Creede, they asked us if we wanted a ride. Hmmm. Continue on a dusty hot road getting dusted by ATVs for another couple hours, or get in their car.

We got in their car. In some ways I wish we hadn’t, because we missed walking the narrow canyon into the historic town. Our “ride” took us on a wider route that went by the Last Chance Mine they had just visited, as well as the outskirts of town with a newer housing development.

I think that when we do the San Juan High Route, next year or so, we will be sure to finish in Creede, having taken the full walk into downtown.

They did however deliver us to the start of the town at the edge of the canyon. They even offered to take us to South Fork, if we needed. 

Sherri and Tom, newlyweds from Pueblo Colorado

We thanked the newlyweds for the ride and looked for a place to eat. Tommy Knockers Tavern was highly recommended. Tommy Knockers it was. The fresh food, what they had left of, was good. Two PBRs later (“hiker trash” beer) lwe were off to find housing.

What we didn’t know was that old town Creede has very few hotel rooms. I believe 8 to be exact. And, as we were told by a proprietor, all the rooms are filled due to their annual classic car show, even though that wasn’t supposed to start for two days. We could always camp at the town’s baseball field we were told, or go to South Fork. So much for taking a zero in Creede and having a warm place to stay. It was supposed to get down to 22 that night. What was cool though is that the proprietor called a place he knew halfway between Creede and South Fork. They had a room. We took it. Now to get there. The proprietor offered up one of his employees, that graciously waited till we shopped for our resupply, in Creede, and while I bought a new hiking shirt at the local outfitters. My favorite Columbia PFG shirt was beyond repair. Fall had arrived. It was getting colder, and I needed actual working sleeves.

No amount of Tenacious Tape or thread was going to fix this

Turns out that our ride was a SOBO PCT “refugee”. He was more than happy to help out a fellow SOBO and to provide actual “trail magic”. He dropped us at the Blue Creek Lodge and RV Park. What an awesome place. Boy did we score! This is a place we will definitely revisit.

View from the upper balcony where we ate our dinner

Blue Creek Lodge and RV Park is family owned, and run. They used to run a popular restaurant, with a John Wayne theme room, but closed it 3 years ago, as it was just too much to operate, essentially by themselves.(The Lodge and RV park were more than enough to run, they told us.) Granny, however cooks a fabulous pie and breakfast Danishes…daily. Their hospitality was over the top. They allowed us full use of their kitchen, and access to any of the food and/or condiments in their commercial fridge. They even allowed us to do our laundry in their commercial washer/dryer. The following morning we joined the family and other guests for fresh coffee and Danishes. They were genuinely interested in our hike, and from what we could gather, had never really had SOBO hikers at their establishment. They were especially familiar with the early season NOBOs, and late season SOBOs road walking past their establishment. They’ve even been known to “rescue” a few during severe in-climate weather.

Up to this point we were still committed to completing the Creede Cut-Off, which in Guthook/FarOut is indicated as a “brown route”. This meant we had to get a ride back to Creede, to continue the remaining 28 miles of the Creede Cut-Off to where it re-connected with the “redline”. Once back on the “redline”, it would be another 81 miles to Cumbres Pass, and a hitch off Hwy 17 into Chama NM. While this route is “lower” than the “redline” through the San Juan “high route”, this still meant that we had to buy and carry even MORE food (7 days worth) to get us the 109 miles to Chama NM. Another option would have been to carry 5 days worth of food and hitch into South Fork from Wolf Creek Pass (a “hard” hitch), resupply and get back on trail. This would probably add another day, and the cost of another hotel.

We couldn’t help but notice the multiple mentions of South Fork, by our ride into Creede, the outfitters, and discussions with Bill (Blue Creek Lodge owner) that evening. What was it about the insistence of South Fork? This led to Paul discovering the “blue” Elwood Pass alt. It appeared to be a “common” route for the NOBOs to escape snow and nasty weather. We kept that route in the back of our mind, still determined to complete the Creede Cut-Off, back to the “redline”. We wondered aloud, if our “guardian angel” was pleading with us to go to South Fork and take the Elwood Pass alt. We imagine that he/she has been working quite a bit of overtime, and knew something we didn’t. But after conversation with the locals, the following morning, who were conversant in the coming weather, and more than once mentioned and recommended us just going to South Fork and taking the Elwood Pass Alt, we finally acquiesced. We can recognize a “sign”, when we see it, especially when it hits us in the face…continually. We’d also rather not spend the next two weeks in freezing temperatures, AND at mostly 10-11,000+ ft, with a heavy food carry. We were worn out, and our mileage was showing that. Heck, even my favorite shirt couldn’t cut it anymore and got “off trail”.

Because the “blue” 48 mile Elwood Pass Alt travelled 22 miles along the paved, narrow and practically shoulder less 2-lane Hwy 149, we decided that we should hitch into South Fork, and not walk from Creede. The fact that trucks and trailers towing beautiful classic cars rumbled past the Lodge with increasing frequency sealed the deal. As it turns out, no hitch was required. Our host arranged a ride for us. Another “sign” that we were to go to South Fork.

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Monarch Pass to Creede

9/12: 15.4 mi (1914.9 – 1930.3)

We scheduled a ride from Debbie, Salida’s resident Trail Angel back up to Monarch Pass. Turns out, that as she was dropping us off, two more SOBOs needed a ride into Salida.

At the pass, there is a gondola that gives ride to the top for views of the area and it’s local Monarch Ski area.

A popular and BUSY trailhead

This particular trail head, and the corresponding 11+ miles of trail just happens to also be THE most popular mountain bike route in the country. It’s not too technical, has great views and nice downhills. We were told that van loads of cyclists get dropped off at hourly intervals, especially on the weekends.

Thankfully, Labor Day had already passed, otherwise I don’t know how a hiker could get anywhere on the trail. As it was, it was Sunday, and we had to step off the trail at regular intervals, hence our low mileage for the day.

The forecast for the day gave us a 3% chance of rain. It turned into 100%, for 40 minutes, just after we took a break for lunch.

Today we met a lot of displaced PCT hikers, whom we called PCT “refugees”. They were, for the most part, PCT SOBOs who had been kicked off the trail when they reached California, because of the fires. They all seemed to head over to the Colorado Trail, en mass, to keep their “trail legs”, in hopes California would “open” by the 17th. It was weird running into so many people in one day. Up to now, the “population” on the trail had been fairly sparse.

9/13: 21.2 mi (1930.3 – 1951.1)

We had a 12 mi and 8 mi water carry today. Luckily the air was crisp and cool for the first half of the day.

The tread was somewhat rocky, but also provided us with fruit salad…of sorts.

I was surprised by how many patches of strawberries, grouse berries and raspberries there were along the trail, this late in the season. This made for a somewhat “distracted” climb, which highly annoyed Paul.

Once again we passed nearly 10+ PCT “refugees” for the day.

Bow hunting season for elk was in full swing. Hunter’s camps punctuated the trail. Towards the end of the day we ran into two young bow hunters. They were hiking back up to their camp, after having packed out an elk the previous day. They asked us questions about the CDT, and had aspirations of thru-hiking a long trail. We told them that their style of hunting would make them easy candidates for a thru-hike.

The end of the day found us arriving later than we preferred (7pm) into camp, but it was thankfully much warmer than our day had started.

9/14: 18.4 mi (1951.1 – 1969.5)

On our way to camp, the evening prior, the water sources up to that point were dry. This made for an 8mile morning hike to water, and an 11am coffee break. Once again we met several PCT “refugees” who were not entirely excited about their pending uphill climb of the CT/CDT. They were complaining about how “rocky” and steep the trail had been so far. “If you think this is bad, wait till you’re JUST on the CDT”, we told them. “This is pretty nice trail tread, namely because it’s also the Colorado Trail”.

They laughed and reluctantly packed up, and began to trudge up the dirt road that ran through a logging area.

We made our intended miles by 5 pm, and, in-between were treated to some trail magic from “String Bean”. He had completed the CT via mountain bike and was parked on the trail/road with his truck handing out beer, soda and snacks. As no one was really choosing the beer, we obliged String Bean and drank a few while we talked and shared stories. Needless to say we rejoined the trail, VERY happy, and with uncomfortably full bladders.

Rather than continue on till our “normal” stopping time, we decided to camp at the first perfectly flat spot we could find, rather than start a climb that may result in a less than desirable spot.

9/15: 22.1 mi (1969.5 – 1991.6)

A little brisk for the morning, with some frost on the vegetation. Jackets and gloves were necessary, as well as an equally brisk pace. After an easy climb, the trail followed a long meadow along a two track road. Once we found full sun, we stopped for coffee and breakfast.

Today was a colorful treat. The Aspens mixed in with the mountainside’s pine forests were now changing color. Golden yellow was the norm with patches of deep red and orange begining to show. One Aspen sported a range of color that reminded us of a “Big Stick” popsicle.

We walked through groves of Aspen that towered over us and littered the ground with discarded yellow leaves.

We had never seen such a show of color, and knew that over the next few weeks would only get better. This, sadly, meant that Fall was here and Winter was coming to Colorado. We needed to pick up our pace even more in order to get out of Colorado before it snowed on us.

The trail continued through a narrow valley with a picturesque crooked river with two guys fly fishing along it’s banks. It was like being in a Field and Stream magazine.

We lunched at the river’s edge and cooled out hot and swollen feet. Lots of mile to be made to day. The terrain demanded it. It was not really that hard.

We got stalled for nearly an hour by cowboys rounding up a wayward and cantankerous herd of cattle. It was amazing to see the cowboys, their horses and dogs work.

More and more PCT “refugees” passed toward the end of our day. “You’ve got big climbs ahead of you”, they cautioned us with a smirk, believing that we were “weekenders”. “Right back at ya”, we replied.

As the sun began to set under the hill behind us, we set up camp. It was going to be a cold night, no doubt about it.

9/16: 14 mi? (1991.6 – Creede)

The morning started out bitter cold. We wore everything we had, and were still cold. It didn’t help that the wind was a little brisk AND we had close to a 2,000 ft climb over two saddles (12674 ft/12374 ft) on our way to the Creede Cut-off, for resupply.

Headed to our first saddle

While cold, the route was beautiful. Fall was definitely in the air. Colors were brilliant.

We had breakfast at the first saddle and marveled at the view. We watched as an unsuspecting deer made its way up and over the saddle.

We were in thralled by the hoo-doo type rock structures that towered above us as we made our way down and toward our next saddle.

The next saddle was just as breathtaking both in views and climb.

When we got to the Creede Cut-off, we had a decision to make. Do we resupply in Creede and head back out and try our luck at the San Juan High Route, or do we continue on the remainder of the Creede Cut-off. We are fully aware that this particular section (San Juan High Route) is the “highlight” of Colorado. We considered our luck, and the approaching weather. We really didn’t have a week to spend at over 13,000 ft with the current weather forecast. We opted to take the lower Creede Cut-off alternate, and revisit the San Juans, say late August, of another year, and hike it at our leisure.

Down towards Creede we shuffled. The route itself is beautiful, and water was practically everywhere.

Cars and ATVs dusted us at regular intervals.

An active mine loomed to our left.

Our intent was to walk all the way into the small town of Creede.

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Twin Lakes to Monarch Pass

9/7: 20.3 mi (1825.7 – 1846)

We didn’t have very far to go to get into Twin Lakes for our resupply, but we packed up quickly and decided to have breakfast along the way.

We stopped at a beaver pond and had our coffee and Jumbo HoneyBun. An array of gnawed trees surrounded us. We marveled at the ingenuity of the beavers. A young buck, still in velvet stared from the far edge of the pond, hoping we weren’t hunters.

With much lighter packs, having eaten everything that was edible in our packs, we made a left turn onto the Twin Lakes trailhead. In no time we were at the small town’s edge only to find, that for the most part, the town was, for all practical purposes, closed.

We had arrived the morning after Labor Day Monday. Summer was officially “over” in these parts, and the coffee place, burrito food truck, and country store were closed! The store actually had a sign that they wouldn’t be open till noon, and the restaurant till 4 pm. I knew I shouldn’t have eaten that last snack!

As it was 9am, there was only one thing we could do. Wait. We were however, able to charge our electronics at an outdoor outlet in front of the closed visitor center while we waited.

Once the store opened, we collected our resupply and had a beer. While we were organizing our stuff, “Popeye” and “Olive Oil” arrived to collect their resupply. We chatted for some time. They were going to hitch into Leadville and ship some stuff home, before continuing on trail. We bid them farewell and continued on trail.

Rather than “needlessly” walk around the lake as per the “redline”, we decided to cross the river and meet up with the trail on the other side of the lake. Once at the trail junction, it was time to climb. We had had a four hour “rest”, so a 3235ft climb over 3.8 miles should be “do-able”…before dark.

Hope Pass (12,532 ft) w/ Twin Lakes in the background

While we made the climb to Hope Pass (12,532 ft) in just over an hour,(compared to the 3 hours it took to make a similar elevation gain summiting Gray’s Peak) we almost bit off more than we could chew. We did however, make it to our intended campsite with enough light to set up our tent…but not to eat. That required our headlamps.

9/8: 17.4 mi (1847 – 1863.4)

With the plethora of steep ascents and descents, that the CDT in Colorado requires, my right calf and left hamstring were beginning to become problematic. We decided to take an alternate, and hike on a road that was about 2/10ths off trail, but generally paralleled the trail for several miles.

So, descending and walking on a relatively “flat” surface as opposed to constant up/down and adjusting to trail impediments became the solution.

Along the way we came upon several mining camps and were treated to a bull moose sighting. We watched in awe as he fed and thrashed about the bushes trying to rub off the felt of his massive rack.

Today’s climb would be past Anne Lake and up and over Anne Pass.

Another bonus of taking the dirt road, was that it led us into the historic mining town of Winfield.

In it’s “hey day” it sported 1500 residents 3 saloons, 3 stores, 2 hotels, boarding house, a post office, a church, and a school.  It’s now more of a ghost town, with some buildings restored by the historical society.

As we traveled upon our alternate route, we couldn’t help but notice signs identifying our route as the CT/CDT. I do believe we were on the “old” route. Perfect! This route took us through a long meadow, with many camping opportunities. It appeared to be a popular area to camp and set up hunting camps.

After lunch and a nap by a rushing stream, we began our final assault on Anne Pass (12,645 ft.).

1500 ft over 1.5 miles, and 1.5 hours later, we reached the top.

Not a breath of wind. Time for a snack.

The descent was pleasant, as the trail was well maintained and fairly free of tripping “opportunities”. As we made our way down to treeline, we saw another cow moose fairly close to the trail. She didn’t seem to care that we were so close, and continued to graze.

Can you find her?

In all, the day was a pleasant one, considering the pain I started the day with. We ended the day camped next to a creek, and watched deer weaving their way through the forest till it was time to rehydrate our dinners.

9/9: 19.1 mi (1863.4 – mile 17 Mirror Lake Alt) Also known as lower (East) Collegiate route

From our camp spot the previous night, we descended to the junction of the Colligate route(s). The next few days were supposed to completely clear, and relatively hot. Because the “high” East Colligate route traveled over 12,000-13,000 ft, and was a practically waterless exposed ridgeline, we elected to travel a less exposed route, with plentiful water. The “lower”/West Collegiate route.

And because we often like the challenge of “short cuts”, we forded a river and bushwhacked a mile through scratchy brush to cut off 3 miles of easy walking. We intersected the trail, just as it started to climb.

It was initially a mild climb through a forested area, until it turned into a multi-use trail, complete with a horde of dirt bikes.

These bikes chewed up the trail so bad it left us little, short of ruts and rocks, upon which to tread. One motorbike (rider) actually lost his balance negotiating the maze of rocks and fell, bike and all, on Paul as we lunched on the far edge of the trail.

After lunch, the trail continued to climb. It was dusty, hot, over 84°, and breeze less. We could only imagine how hot it must have been on the EAST Route without shade and water to mitigate the conditions.

Evidence of micro storms that brought destructive winds were piled high on either side of the trail. The trail crews that cleared this portion of the trail, certainly had their work cut out for them…pun intended.

Mirror Lake down below

After climbing up to an exposed ridge at 12,386 ft, the trail dropped down sharply to Mirror Lake. To say that those 3 miles was pleasant would be an utter lie. Motorbikes and ATVs had chewed this route up as well.

We camped at the far end of Mirror Lake. Tin Cup Pass could wait till tomorrow.

9/10: 17.6 mi (mile 5 – 1900.4)

What a difference a day makes! It was a brilliant day. The climb up to Tin Cup Pass was fairly mild.

Tin Cup Pass is on the actual Continental Divide. This is where the water that flows from one side of pass travels toward the Pacific, while water from the other side travels toward the Gulf and/or Atlantic.

To my left, it flows to Pacific. To my right, it flows to the Atlantic

It is here that we enjoyed a cup of coffee and our morning “staple”, 710 calorie, Jumbo Frosted HoneyBun.

While reconnecting with the CDT, below Tin Cup Pass, we talked with Wayne. Wayne, who was in in his 70’s had just completed the route from here to Durango. He gave us great intel on what to expect over the next 300 miles, AND supplied us with some additional trail magic, in the form of snacks.

The trail weaved over wide open spaces above treeline, till it dropped down onto the remains of an old rail line, who’s tracks have since been removed.

At times though, you could see remnants of the railroad ties imbedded in the soil.

After our final 600 ft climb of the day, up and over 12,200 ft we searched in vain for a suitable place to pitch our tent. We settled for a lumpy meadow, which sent the local deer scurrying, and quite annoyed with us.

9/11: 5.4 mi (Alt to Monarch Pass) Hitch into Salida

As we were low on food (actually we were out of food… one snack left, each), we took an alternate to Monarch Pass. A hearty breakfast at the Monarch Lodge was calling, and we were determined to answer that call! I’ve got to say, this place was amazing. Carl our server, and I believe also our chef, was super. Great guy! A true hike breakfast if there ever was one. Especially if one has reached the pinnacle of “hiker hunger”, like we had. If it were not for our discipline, and need to have food for each day on trail, we could easily eat the entire contents of our food bag, usually by day two, after a resupply.

While gorging ourselves we made reservations at a hotel in Salida. We actually got their last room. Apparently it was Salida’s annual Fiber Festival. After a relatively easy hitch into Salida, we did our best to graze through the town’s recommended dining and beverage establishments.

Funny thing, we actually saw more mule deer bucks in town than we had so far on trail.

While shopping and packing up for our resupply, we ran into the Wander Women (YouTube channel), who were hiking the Colligate route while waiting for California to reopen the PCT because of fires. We had met them last year,on the CDT, in Dubois Wyoming.

After a quick load of laundry, we caught Saturday evening Mass, and gorged ourselves some more, and then prepped to get back on trail the following morning.

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Breckenridge to Twin Lakes

9/4: 16.9 mi (1774.6 – 1791.5)

Up early, after another gloriously comfortable night’s sleep, we were fed fresh waffles, fruit and bacon, along with a near bottomless cup of coffee. Clifford dropped us off at the Copper Mtn Ski area, and we found ourselves winding our way up the runs, we had skied on several months prior.

It was a mellow day of easy ascent, with big blue skies that at times threatened rain, but never amounted to anything. Being rain averse we did take our rain jackets on and off…several times. Along the way, we talked with quite a few weekend day hikers and bikers who were curious about the CDT.

At the top of a pass, exiting the ski area, the trail opened up to rolling hills of wide open meadows, complete with herds of curious sheep.

These three in particular, scurried over to “study” us more closely

Up an over another pass, we dropped down into the remains of Camp Hale (a WWII, 10th Mountain Infantry Division, mountain warfare training area, and German POW camp).

After exploration of the remaining concrete structure sporting 1ft thick walls, we set up camp.

9/5: 19.2 mi (1791.5 – 1810.7)

Holy Crap did it get cold! We awoke to the underside of our tent’s fly fully coated in ice crystals.

The hand grips of my trekking poles were coated as well. This is what you get when you camp in a valley next to a running creek, after a storm.

It took a minimum of 5 miles for us to warm up and find a bit if sun, in which to breakfast “comfortably”.

For the most part, the first 10 miles of the day were really cruzy. Upon reaching Tennessee Pass, we found a lone trekking pole, with a nearly devoured handle leaning against an interpretive sign. Its lower half conveniently fit my damaged pole. We decided that this was perfect “trail magic”, and Wa-La, a fully functioning pole now.

The 10th Mountain Division, during WWII, used this Tennessee Pass area for it’s Winter training. (Not sure if they still do). Near the Pass are also cool Continental Divide log cabins that you can rent, complete with awesome privies.

This is just the privy and firewood storage part of the cabin.

Once through the pass, and towards the 2nd half of our day, the trail devolved into typical CDT tread. Not sure what happened to the grooming that has so far been consistent along the “shared” portion of the CDT with the Colorado Trail (CT). The climbs and especially descents were rocky and tedious. We were completely wiped out by the end of the day. We had planned to be to our intended destination by 5:30, but it took till 7pm to get there.

Could it be because we lost track of the trail and had to bushwhack well over a mile through a maze of downfalls?

Just a bit off the “red line”

I hate to admit it, but this trail is starting to NOT be fun. I can’t keep this up without a break. To date, we have only taken 3 Zeros, everything else has been a Nero. My feet are planning a mutiny!

9/6: 15 mi (1810.7 – 1825.7)

It was all I could do to keep up.

Today was just a slog. The trail was not even difficult. My heart, brain and body had totally “checked out”. I was on survival autopilot until we came across Marvin.

Marvin (sorry I didn’t get a picture) was an eighty-seven year old man from Leadville. He was hiking with his dog. He moved at an incredibly slow pace, but emitted joy and serenity. He said that his “happy place” is in the mountains. He lamented the fact that he can’t backpack anymore, and expressed how fortunate we were to be doing what we’re doing. He even wished he had done more when he was younger, and more importantly, able. For now, he spends every summer day hiking in the mountains. He was a remarkable man, with remarkable stories. His smile is forever embedded in my brain. I think he was sent to squash my feet’s impending mutiny, and shut down my growing internal “pity party”. Well timed, and we’ll played Martin. You are magic!

With a newfound zeal, we hiked on.  As the sun was starting to set, we found a wonderfully flat site, on a hill, just above our water source. This set us up perfectly for Twin Lakes, and our resupply.

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Breckenridge

9/2-3: Zero + 15 mi slack pack

9/2: 3.4 mi (1755.9 – 1759.3)

The patter of rain against our tent fly was nearly a constant all night, and stopped just after we finished a leisurely breakfast that consisted of our last Jumbo Honeybun and Via coffee. We were in no hurry, and actually got to sleep in for a change. Clifford would be meeting us at the Gold Hill Trailhead around 11:30.

For the first time in a long time, we strolled along the trail. No push for miles. No push for time. No push because of weather. We were carefree and stress free. Of course finding out that the CT and CDT share the “Blair Witch Trail” was a little disconcerting.

We descended a meandering switchback that overlooked Breckenridge. Filed past the Tiger Run RV park and threaded our way under a bridge to the Gold Hill Trailhead.

When we got to the trailhead we had ample time to dry out our tent/fly and sleeping bags. People arriving at the trailhead to begin day and Colorado Trail (CT) section hikes looked at us quizically. Two CT section hikers  dropping off a car stopped and chatted with us for quite some time.

By the time Clifford arrived, our “yard sale” chores were done. We had been looking forward to Breckenridge and meeting up with Clifford ever since he sent me a text (August 26th) to let him know when we were approaching Breckenridge.

Clifford took us to his home and laid out a spread of fresh food, which we devoured. As he had some work to do, he let us use his truck to do our “town chores”, that included REI for new shoes and Walmart for resupply food, and the post office. After completing our laundry and taking a glorious shower, we headed out for dinner at Clifford’s favorite Mexican restaurant in Breckenridge, Mi Casa. This was perfect, as we were “jonesing” for good Mexican food. The food and company, did not disappoint.

9/3: 15 mi (1759.6 – 1774.6)

Clifford leading the way.

Because we could, and because Clifford had always wanted to hike this section (Breckenridge ski area to Copper Mtn resort), we slack packed, or rather fast packed this section (to avoid the gathering storm) in record time (6 hours).

The aftermath of the hail. So much for dry shoes.

We did, however, get hailed on in the beginning and poured on toward the end, but avoided being at the top when the thunder rolled through.

It was great having Clifford with us. It was like have a tour guide for the entire hike, pointing out significant ski runs, adjacent mountains and enlightening us on the history, and the plethora of recreational opportunities in the Breckenridge area.

Once back to the house, a few more “chores” (REI had given me the wrong size shoes…I failed to check before leaving the store the day previous), a hot shower and another night out for dinner. Just prior to leaving for dinner, as we came down in our clean hiking “uniform”, Clifford asked if we had any pants. We looked down at our shorts, and replied “This is all the clothes we have. We can put on our rain pants”. Clifford, who is an engineer and an avid outdoorsman, cocked his head (I pictured wheels turning inside his brain), and replied, “Of course you wouldn’t carry pants. No worries. I’ve got the perfect place for us to go.” Once again, our dinner, the company and beverages did not disappoint. I do believe that Clifford (once he retires) is a perfect candidate for a thru-hike.

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Berthoud Pass – Breckenridge

8/29: 16.2 mi (1685.7 – 1701.9)

We are known to walk more than a mile to get good coffee, and this morning was no exception. Moon Frog Coffee Shop was well worth the two mile r/t trek.

Happily caffeinated, we got a hitch back to Berthoud Pass (11298 ft). Today we would begin a week with a series of climbs and traverses that would be difficult to forget. One could even describe it as traumatizing…but we survived. We did things that I never thought I could/would ever do, and with all seriousness, would not do it again. Had we really known what was coming up, I dare say we may have skipped this section.

From Berthoud Pass we made our first climb to Stanley Mtn (12,499 ft), followed by another peak, only referred to as “Summit” (12,648 ft.)

From there we worked our way around toward Hassell Peak (13,208 ft), but not before encountering what could only be described as burgeoning rave party, complete with a techno DJ!

From Hassell Peak, we ridge walked to and over Vasquez Peak (12,947 ft). The wind was howling and non-stop, until we began our descent that seemed to take forever. The most interesting part of summiting Vasquez Peak, is the fact that some “crazy” on a mountain bike rode our same route over the scree and between the jagged rocks that lined the narrow and sometimes treacherous trail.

Our campsite found us completely out of the wind. Tomorrow we climb Gray’s Peak. A fourteener.

8/30: 17.9 mi (1701.9 – 1720.8)

Up early…again, we made our way down to the highway. The trail was busy with day hikers and a high school cross country team.

Once we got down to Herman Gulch parking lot we made our way under the hwy. Thinking we were smarter than the trail, we attempted a “short cut” in hopes of cutting off a half mile. This meant a slight bushwhack and a stream crossing. Everything went as planned until the last two steps of the stream crossing. This resulted in double-footed soakers.

Determined to walk our feet dry, we returned to the trail that ran down the length of a paved bike trail whose edges were lined with wild raspberries, and flowing springs.

The bike path ended at the base of the dirt road approach to Gray’s Peak.

As it was now nearly noon, we had three options to get to the base of Gray’s Peak, 3miles away up a dusty, steep, rock strewn dirt road. As there was a serious storm approaching within two days, our window of opportunity was getting smaller by the hour.

  • Start walking up the hill during the heat of the day
  • Set up camp and try and hitch to the base at 3am with a prospective “summiteer”.
  • Hitch up the road, and based on what time we get up to the parking lot, determine when to start our climb of Gray’s.

I sat alongside the road, in the dirt while Paul went to fetch water from the nearby river. Just as he returned a Honda CR-V pulled up toward the road. I casually raised my thumb and smiled. The car passed me, then stopped. “Where are you trying to get to? The campground?”, the elderly couple asked. Ideally to the parking lot at Gray’s we told them. “We have a cabin right next to the parking lot. We’ll give you a ride”. How lucky was that?!

The 3 mile ride up the tattered road was fraught with erosion, but our driver was familiar with the twists and turns of the road and was unfazed. She nimbly weaved her Honda CR-V up the road as she told us the history of the area. It was once a gold mining community, whose plots were sold off to those who are seeking solitude in the mountains.

Since we arrived at the base of Gray’s at 1 pm, we decided that since it was only 3,000 ft climb over 3.6 miles to summit, we decided we had plenty of time.  By 4 pm, after stopping and talking with numerous people, who wondered what the hell we were doing (climbing in the afternoon, and carrying more than a day pack) we reached Gray’s Peak (14278 ft.) by 4pm.

Along the way we were greeted by a mountain goat “sentry”, who meandered off the trail so we could summit.

Plenty of daylight left and not a breath of wind, the trail continued from Gray’s and across to Edward’s Peak (13856 ft). It took us 2.5 hrs to go 1.5 miles to make our way to the peak. No one told us about Edward’s, even though we had read comments about Edward’s on our Guthook app. Something about it being “dangerous” had us confused, as it was lower than Gray’s, and was on/along the redline of the CDT.

The traverse to Edward’s was for lack of a better description, “Fucking Scary Balls”, absolutely terrifying! Three times scarier than when we did Mt. Whitney in 2016. I’d rather of slathered myself in honey and walked through The Bob naked. The descent was even more treacherous. The “trail” was lined with loose rocks and sharp scree. And to think miners led mule trains along this route, as evidenced by what was left of a narrow road and delapitated mining sites.

Having been drained physically and emotionally, left us walking into the dark before we found a suitable place to camp.

8/31: 11.1 mi (1720.8 – 1731.4)

So last night was “fun”. I suffered from searing leg cramps ALL night. When I woke up the next morning, I felt like I had been dragged behind a horse. My knees and feet were sore. They were shot from the day before. It was hard to get going. My morale and energy was at an all time low.

This was not helpful as we had several 2,000 ft climbs…and an early morning stream crossing.

At mile 1725.6, we had a dangerous climb and traverse up the face of an old mining area.

In order to get to the ridgeline we were to walk at 13,000 ft. for most of the day, we had to climb the “remains” of a miner’s “ladder/stairs” to get to a faint trail, and then carefully traversed the hillside made of scree (loose rocks) and spotty vegetation. When we made it to the start of the Ridgeline walk, we took a well deserved break and surveyed what lay behind us.

Today’s trail would lead us (via carin to carin) up and over the following peaks:

  • Santa Fe Peak (13,140 ft.)
  • Sullivan Mountain (13,096 ft.)
  • Geneva Peak (13,245 ft.)
  • Summit (13200 ft.)

Feeling pretty drained and low on water, we dropped down into a valley for water and to set up camp. This would leave us with ruffly 27 miles into Breckenridge.

9/1: 27 mi (1731.4 – 1755.9)

Rather than backtrack, we found a route up a mining road that would lead us back to the “redline”.

An old miners cabin and scars in the hillside, as we climbed reminded us of how rugged and hearty the people of that era were…compared to us.

Atop a mesa we breakfasted. It was here that one of my trekking poles decided it had had enough and was going no further. The end section had broken cleanly in half. Better to find out then rather than on a sketchy descent.

Miraculously we made crazy mileage. Getting to Breckenridge before a nasty storm set to “land” the following day was our motivation. The fact that the CDT finally connected to the Colorado Trail (CT) helped as well. It was, as Paul said, “like walking on Berber carpet”. Our goal was to get as close to the Gold Hill Trailhead as possible. A family friend. Clifford, would pick us up and take us to his condo in Breckenridge for two days of r&r.

3.4 miles from the trailhead we set up camp, just as it started to pour.

Posted in Backpacking, Colorado, Continental Divide Trail, thru-hiking, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Grand Lake – Winter Park

8/24: 13.8 mi (1593.8 – 1607.6)

Three climbs were on the menu for the day. All in all it was a beautiful hike for the day.

Mountain ridges, meadows, springs leaking water all over the ground from the most amazing places.

Best of all scraggly downfalls that required some acrobatics, of which we are becoming quite adept at these days.

Our final pass opened up to a more than picturesque valley below, and eventually led us to the edges of Rocky Mountain National Park, and our first moose encounter.

A cow moose was feeding along the trail, and couldn’t be bothered with getting off trail for us to continue.

She looked at us like, “And you actually expect me to move for you. Have you noticed our size difference?” We were patient and enamored with her, and she finally walked off the trail just below us and continued to much on green growy stuff.

We had decided that once we reach the parking lot at Rocky Mountain NP, that we would try and yogi a ride to Grand Lake, rather than walk the busy highway…during tourist season.  We scored a ride the moment we stuck our thumb out. A couple with a toddler picked us up. They were on there way to Grand Lake. They immediately apologized for their child, who had been crying non-stop. We told them we have been there with cranky kids, so it wouldn’t bother us. Ironically, the moment we got into their car, their child stopped crying and began to smile. Did we want to ride with them to Durango, they asked with a chuckle. I happily entertained the cutie, who apparently was enamored by my dirt streaked face, as we drove to Grand Lake.

They dropped us at the post office, per our request. Only problem, it was closed. Figures. The thing about Grand Lake is that the CDT runs the length of the town’s main street. Onward we trekked through town, whose wooden boardwalk “sidewalks” have the CDT emblem embossed on boards periodically. Shops lined the boardwalk with stuff we couldn’t buy, nor carry. We were now in search of adult beverages. We asked a couple who smiled and nodded at us, if they knew a place we could get a cold beer. “End of town. It’s happy hour. Two for one prices”, they responded. Perfect!

As we walked, we also noted the location of “grocery stores”, the outfitters, and lodging. Four beers later, we had lodging, back at the other end of town. The laundry and grocery store were right next door, and our hotel had an 11 am check out. Time enough to get to the post office and then purchase the rest of our resupply.

8/25: 13.8 mi (Grand Lake – 1646)

We have noticed a trend in the small “touristy” towns we come in to. The things we crave the most when we get into town, good coffee and an equally good breakfast place are mostly closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. Since we seem to be arriving in towns on either Tuesday or Wednesday, we have been deprived of both. There was, however, an open coffee shop, back at the far (opposite) end of town. With a fully loaded (resupply) we trudged , once again to the opposite end of town. It was worth the walk. Here we met up with “Sprout”, who had previously joined us momentarily on top of the Parkview Lookout. We talked for a moment, as she was going to charge her electronics at the library. We however, were going to hike on.

Today would be a milestone day, of sorts.

  • We would walk along the headwaters of the Colorado River
  • We would reach 1000 miles walked so far this year on the CDT
  • We would complete 1600 miles in total, on the CDT.
  • And are now well over halfway. Closer to Mexico than Canada. No turning back now.

More than halfway into our day, we decided to take a swim in the Colorado River. It was hot, and the water beckoned. We sunned ourselves on the sandy bank of the river, as boaters passed by, somewhat perplexed as to how we came to be on the bank of the river…without a boat. Eventually, it was time to continue on. Our plan was a “Nero” walk day, and there was a campground not far from where we were.

When we got to the campground, we walked by an occupied campsite and asked if there was a camp host, and/or if there was a fee to camp there. There was a fee, but we weren’t inclined to pay such a hefty price for a piece of dirt and a picnic table. And with that, we decided to continue on.

But, not before being offered brats, a bag of Dots (best pretzels EVER!), fire grilled ear of corn, beer and water. Fully satisfied, we toddled further down the dirt road, that was now the trail. At the next campground (Big Rock), we found the camphost, who gave us half a bottle of whiskey and the site next to her for $11. Such a deal! Best Nero ever!

8/26: 21.7 mi (1646 – 1667.7)

Today we would climb to over 12,000 ft again after passing by Monarch Lake. The previous year this particular section had been ravaged by a micro wind storm that toppled thousands of trees. The work the trail crews did was monumental.

Climb. Climb. Climb. It was steady ALL day. Not hard, but enough to make you sweat and take a breather from time to time.

Halfway into our climb, while stopped for lunch, Sprout caught up to us. We would walk with her the rest of the day. Just out of college, and having completed the Colorado trail last summer, she was on her first “long” thru-hike, as she described it. Solo, I might add. Although she said she didn’t like people, she was glad have someone to talk to, as she was tired of talking to herself.

At some point during our climbing, we had to decide on whether to camp at mile 1661.5, and save the pass for the morning, or commit to going all the way to the road. At the time, the next water available would be 6.5 more miles, and we had several hours of daylight left. We felt pretty confident we could make the 6.5 miles before dark, and continued on.

Boy did we pay for that decision. While we were rewarded with amazing views, we were, under bright blue skies, blasted by a cold, gusting wind, the entire time. 

These were hard miles, with no “opt-out” place to camp, and absolutely NO cover from what appeared to be a quickly approaching storm. This took us by surprise, as according to our weather app, this front was not on the “radar”.

After the ascent of the pass, was a long traverse with stunning and seemingly endless views. With light waining, and after a tedious, rock strewn descent, we made it to the road where a railroad used to be. Water from freshly flowing springs cut rivlets of water in the road, but still no flat or decent place to camp. After another mile or so, we spied Sprout who had secured a descent spot to camp, with room for us as well. Quickly we set up our tent. Severe weather was approaching. Giant bolts of lightning accented the night’s sky on the horizon. We could hear it’s corresponding thunder. When it got to “three one-thousand” it was time to hide in our tent and hope for the best. No doubt, it was going to be a cold and wet night. Snow was not out of the question.

8/27: 12 mi (1667.7 – 1679.7)

Today was a poor mileage day, and hard as hell. It was in fact, almost a game ender day.

Because of the cold, we “slept in” till 6:30am. It had rained most of the night, and lightning had lit up the inside of our tent, like a four year old playing with a light switch for equally as long. We awoke, not well rested to a thin layer of ice coating the inside of our rain fly. Sprout had nearly froze to death. We discussed the value of an air mattress AND a warmer sleeping bag. Sprout was now convinced to borrow the zero degree bag her boyfriend’s mother had offered.

Today was to be the beginning of numerous 13,000 ft ascents/travereses over the next couple hundred miles. First on the menu was Big James Peak at 13309 ft. We would climb from 11400 ft, a nearly 2,000 ft difference…again.

We walked by a delapitated train trestle, where a family had parked to climb Big James Peak as well. We picked up our pace. We were CDT thru-hikers, no way were”day hikers” gonna pass us. Besides, we had to walk ourselves warm. The wind was biting cold.

Just before the middle leg of the ascent (day hikers were way behind us by now) we stopped at/in an rockwall depression that offered some measure of wind block, and made a hot cup of coffee. Sprout caught up to us, amazed at what we were doing. We offered her a cup. She did not hesitate, and joined us.

Once “warmed up”, the wind buffeted climb truly began. Of all the weather types, I can say that I truly, and without question, hate the wind… especially a when it knocks me off my feet. Gusts of 30-50 mph were the norm.

Once we crested Big James Peak, we could see that we weren’t the only ones, a top this peak. Most had come up from our intended descent route, that is the “redline” of the CDT.

The descent is when it got dicey for me. The gusts were blowing across the trail as we made our way down the switchbacks. A hefty gust caught me in mid step, and in an instant I was falling face first into a jagged pile of rocks. Time slowed, and there was no way to arrest my fall. Impact was imminent. My brain concluded that the left side of my face would hit first, with the pointy end of a large rock pushing through the orbit of my eye. This would be an SOS helicopter required kind of injury. “Shit”, was all I could think. “Fuck”, is what I said. Paul and Sprout were 30 yds ahead of me. Paul heard my utterance, and the impact, over the wind. I lay there motionless, doing “inventory”, as he and Sprout made their way back up to me. No one else witnessed the fall. Somehow I was able to see. My face hurt. Was I bleeding?, I asked Paul. Were my sunglasses (now termed “safety glasses”) broken? “No”, was his reply, followed by, “don’t move yet”. He had seen that my sun umbrella that was secured in the side pocket of my pack had been launched forward of me and lie in the rocks below. Obviously it had been a forceful fall. Knees worked. Legs worked. Face was miraculously intact. Gloves were torn and my left wrist however generated a sharp pain. Well, better my wrist than my head, I thought.

But once again, nothing broken. My wrist hurt and was not “useful”(couldn’t hold my trekking pole), for about two days, but definitely not broken.

Because I was so shaken from my fall, and I still wasn’t really sure about the extent of my wrist injury, we held up on making the second of the two 13,000ft summits (Flora Mtn. 13,123 ft).

This had us camping at its base (11,316 ft) near Bill Moore lake. Sprouts continued on, as she was looking for “town food”, and would exit at Berthoud Pass.

8/28: 6 mi (1679.7 – 1685.7)

The wind gusted all night, but we were fairly protected amongst some healthy trees. I awoke to no swelling and significantly more mobility to my wrist. Phew! The climb up to the peak of Flora mountain was fairly simple.

The tread was made up of fairly stable scree and interlocked rocks. As it was a Friday, we were not alone by the time we made it to the top. Our descent took us to a parking lot at Berthoud Pass. The parking lot was nearly full. Our timing was such that we met up with Sprouts, who had just gotten dropped off at the pass…rested and adequately fed. She was going to keep on trekking.

It was an easy hitch into Fraser. We should of however, just been dropped off at the Viking Lodge in Winter Park, as that is where we ended up. Nevertheless, we got dropped at the Fisher’s Bar, whose sign outside reads, “Where the beer is colder than your ex-wife”, as in Guthook people raved about it. The raves were well deserved.

After libations and fresh food our thought was to resupply at the Safeway and then catch the bus back up the road to the Viking Lodge that gives CDT hikers a flat $50 rate for the night. The plan was sound, but it’s execution was flawed, in that we stood at the wrong bus stop location. This meant that we had a 2mile road walk, with our 5 day resupply to the lodge. We tried hitching, but not one car/driver would even make eye contact with us…so we walked. We did however pass  an outfitters, that allowed Paul to buy and install new tips to his trekking poles.

Our lodging at the Viking Lodge was fabulous. We will definitely be back…during ski season.

Of note, we enjoyed an evening of outdoor blue grass music and a beer just outside the Trout Brewing Company, next to our lodge.

Life is good!

Posted in Backpacking, Continental Divide Trail, thru-hiking, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Parkview Lookout

8/23: 16.3 mi (1576.8 – 1593.8)

Holy shit was that an eye opener. I don’t know how this slipped by us, but it did. It was so significant for us that I devoted a single blog post for this day’s climb.

I remember seeing video and photos of the the Parkview Lookout, but I never thought it would be this early in Colorado on our CDT SOBO trek.

Up until this point our lungs have NOT caught up with our legs. It takes some time to expand these sea level lungs. No time like the present!

We camped 6.2 miles from the summit to Parkview Lookout. A two mile trek to the last available watering hole, we had breakfast and drank a liter and a half. We were climbing to 12296 ft. And the next water was now 11 miles.

No worries we thought as it was still early, and the morning was quite cool. We would carry a liter and a half. How hard could the climb be? We were already at a little over 10,000 ft. 2,200 ft over four miles, shouldn’t be that hard? Oh how wrong we were.

The initial climb was “pleasant”, and had mild switchbacks. We were pacing ourselves appropriately, because the wind was starting to gust and we didn’t want to get too sweaty…and wet out our jackets. At some point we decided to stow our jackets. The sun had emerged so we thought it would continue to warm. Silly beach dwellers!

Our only reference to where we were was our Guthook app and intermittent carins, that mostly blended into the hillside. My greatest concern about reaching over 12,000 ft was how I would handle the altitude. I have altitude issues and was a little concerned my head would “explode”.

When Paul announced that we had reached 12,000 ft I was ecstatic. Only problem was, we hadn’t. For some reason the orientation on his app had us going the other way. We had another 1000 ft to climb!

The wind howled mercilessly. It was biting cold. Behind us, the clouds on the horizon, were grey and menacing. They were blowing in our direction. Not a good sign.

The further we walked the more the trail, as far as a distinctive tread, became relatively non-existent. It was a hike your own hike kind of vibe. We traveled carin to carin. It was difficult to see more than one carin at a time due to angles and elevation. At one point it began to mist (a non-committal type of rain here), so we put on pack covers and our rain jackets in addition to our other jackets and gloves. Of course we were still in shorts.

Sadly NOT nearly the top

We finally got to the base of a rather steep hill. One carin loomed high above us. Surely this must be the top, and our destination we thought. But where was the the trail? Where were the switchbacks? Silly hikers, there is no defined trail, because there are NO switchbacks. This is the CDT. Get your ass up the hill as you please. Up and across the face of this massive hill in the gusting wind, that would buffet every step, ever mindful that we did NOT want to be caught at the top, if the storminess behind us decided to visit…fully. Halfway up to that carin, we spied another. And halfway up to the next we spied yet another.

One more carin and we spied a square structure at what hopefully was the top. Son of a bitch! Totally my fault. Two days prior I had looked across the horizon, wondering where we were headed and asked Paul, “is that a square rock or a building way over there?”. ” Don’t know. Don’t care. I doubt we are going there”, was his reply.

Oh yes, we went there. Paul just marched straight up. I made my own “switchbacks”, forcing myself to take at least 40 steps, then 60 steps, then 100, before taking a break to re-oxygenate my lungs and especially, legs.

Paul made the top first, and was gesturing for me to hurry up. Frankly, I thought he was being an ass. Like I could move any faster, I thought. He was the one who gave me my trail name, OneSpeed. What I didn’t know, was that he was watching the skies in the near distance grow darker behind me. Bolts of lightning flashed from under the black mass in the sky.

When I finally got to the Lookout, I was elated, but not for long. So much for having lunch and admiring the view. A quick snack and equally quick video, it was time to beat feet and get off this mountain.

But first a Ridgeline scamper, before even getting to switchbacks that take you to treeline

We practically ran down the trail to treeline. Now I can move when properly motivated, but that doesn’t mean I’m not fully gased, or happy about having to do so. But, it beats being struck by lightning.

Once we reached treeline, we breathed a sigh of relief, as it began to sprinkle. We still had 4 miles till a reliable water source, so no rest for the weary.

With a mile or so to go before water, we crossed a highway. By that time, I didn’t really care about water. I just wanted to stop and take a break…eat some food. We crossed the highway and plopped down in the shade. A blue truck was parked in the large turnout. We suspected that the owner was out for a hike. After an hour or so, it was time to get moving, and just like that, two heavily laden backpackers appeared. They, of course, were preceded by their dog who came over to us and insisted that we pet him. We, happily obliged the dog. One needs a “dog fix” from time to time.

From there, a conversation ensued. The couple had planned on a two day backpacking trip, but decided to turn around when they discovered the creeks they assumed were flowing, weren’t. We talked about water and where we had come from and showed them where the water sources were on our Guthook app, if they wanted to head out again. They were done, but offered to fill our water bottles with the water they had stored in their truck. They even offered us a beer! What a roller coaster of a day, so far. We gladly accepted the water and beer. This made having to walk another 6 or so miles, through a stark burn area, not so bad. This meant we didn’t have to conserve our water, as the cloudy sky was now bright and sunny, without a hint of wind.

We weaved our way through and around a tangle of burnt and trees. It appeared that the fire was so hot that it literally scorched the earth. This made for interesting, and quite sandy tread. Deep troughs lined the trail at times, evidence of the erosive properties of water and gravity.

Within a mile of our intended camp spot we ran into the most unusual and amazing character. His trail name was “Wolf” and he was hiking the CDT…in both directions. He was a career Army Veteran (retired) who loved hiking. In fact before joining the Army, he had hiked the Appalachian Trail (AT) five times, and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) three times. He’s closing in on 30,000 miles of trail hiking. He was now in the process of hiking the CDT North and Southbound, section by section. To do this, he parks his car at one end of a section, hikes the section one-way and then back again to his car. He figures that, next year he will do the CDT, again…in one direction and will become a Triple, Triple Crowner. (To be a Triple Crowner one has to have thru-hiked the AT, PCT and CDT…not in any particular order. There are currently only about 500 people who hold the title of Triple Crowner, but the number is growing.) From what we know of, there are double Triple Crowners, but no Triple Triple Crowners. And we thought we were crazy. Hiking the CDT once will be more than enough for us, but THREE times?! What an amazing feat, and what dogged drive and discipline. One of the happiest guys we’ve met on trail so far. A far cry from the NOBO we met just as we entered the burn area, who told us, “I can’t fucking wait to get out of Colorado”. He did Colorado ONCE. “Wolf” is doing both ways, at the same time, and is happy about it. “Wolf” was also a wealth of information about what we had to look forward to. His attention to detail was remarkable. If anything, he was truly in his element. When we get annoyed or dismayed about the CDT, we’ll just think of “Wolf”, and then stop our whining. March the hell on, and enjoy it damnit! Not everyone gets to do these things…even once.

We parted ways and headed in opposite directions to camp, as the light was waining and cooler air was settling into the narrow river canyon the trail traveled through.

In all, it was quite the roller coaster of a day from the emotions we felt, to the people we encountered and the literal trail we tread. All that in span of just over 16 miles and less than 12 hours (or so).

Posted in Backpacking, Continental Divide Trail, thru-hiking, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Outta Steamboat

August 21: 19.1 mi (1539.4 – 1558.5)

Miraculously we got a hitch outta Steamboat Springs right in front of the Rabbit Ears Motel, where we stayed.

Kris was a local, and avid hiker, an all around outdoors woman. She thought road/hwy walks were dangerous and was happy to take us to Muddy Pass, where we would rejoin the CDT at Hwy 14… and, ironically, road walk the 9 miles to County road 53, which is a dirt road.

As we started out, the air was crisp and traffic was practically non-existent. We walked opposite traffic, on the shoulder. Most cars would steer wide of us, smile and wave, obviously familiar with CDT hiking season. At mile 6 we stopped and talked with two fisherman whose trailer had “smoked” a bearing. They offered us a beer. We graciously accepted, at 9 am. With less than one mile before we were off the CDT highway walk, we nearly got sideswiped by some impatient jackhole with California plates who thought it was a great idea to pass three cars, while going uphill. He came so far into the oncoming traffic lane that he missed us at the fog line by a foot. I nearly turned into him as I turned to see where this odd sound was coming from. This incident furthered our resolve to avoid paved road walks, in the future, at all costs. One would think that if 9miles of the CDT has to be along Hwy 14, the CDT coalition, or at least the Colorado highway division would post a warning sign to alert drivers to CDT hikers.

Once off the 14, we turned onto County rd 53, and breathed a sigh of relief. We parked ourselves, and lunched at a newly erected CDT interpretive panel (SOBO mile 1548.6), sans the panel information.

The dirt road/CDT weaved it’s way over rolling hills and thickets of Aspen and pine. A ferocious, but “quick” storm rolled in that had us diving for cover amongst the trees as thunder roared above us. Once in the trees, the spigot turned on full blast. We quickly dug out our rain jackets that had been securely stuffed at the bottom of our packs. A flash of lightning directly in front of us, and an immediate crack of thunder had us more than a little concerned. 20 minutes later, and still fairly dry, we emerged from our cover and continued down the trail.

Eventually the trail entered Arapahoe National Forest and began it’s gradual ascent as it wove through groves of Aspen whose leaves chattered in the wind. We completed the day at our intended stopping point, just short of a 20 mile day. Luckily, Jim, who is a regular camper/hunter in the area came upon us on his side by side, and gave us water, after informing us that the supposed water source where we intended to camp and get water was dry. He gave us some good information about the area, and additional reliable water sources.

Shortly after setting up camp, who should appear, but Thomas. He too thought water would be available at this site. We informed him of his water choices, to either go back 2miles, or go forward 3. He chose to continue forward. We told him that we’d see him for breakfast. He smiled and laughed, and continued on his way.

8/22: 18.4 mi (1558.5 – 1576.8)

When we got to the spring to collect our water and have breakfast, Thomas was just packing up. Seems that he lost his charge cord for his iPhone along the way. Sadly we were of no help to him as we are Android people. He was in a quandary as to whether to walk back to hwy 14 and hitch to a town and buy a cord, or continue on to where the CDT crossed hwy 123 and hitch to town then. His phone was completely dead. He looked at our maps on Paul’s phone and took a mental note of where the trail goes…forward. He told us that he’d sit awhile and decide what to do, as we continued on.

In a few places along the way, we made sure to leave arrows to mark the way, in the event he decided to move forward. Along the way I discovered more ripe and wild strawberries, enough to treat myself to a handful. Paul couldn’t be bothered. Everytime we stopped for a short break, I also picked the grouse berries whose short bushes practically covered every inch of the ground. When we stopped for lunch and water, Thomas reappeared. He told us he would continue on and duck out at hwy 123 for his phone cord.

Most of the day was spent climbing to 11530ft in chilling winds that blew like they were from Wyoming!

Once past Troublesome Pass we found a decent campsite and 4G cell reception. We called our kids.

Water for the last two days has been a deciding issue as to where to end up, mainly so we are set up for the next day’s lengthy carry…usually uphill. Tomorrow would be paramount to be watered up. A 2,200 ft climb to over 12,000 ft was on the menu with no water for the next 10 miles. This should be fun.

Posted in Backpacking, Continental Divide Trail, thru-hiking, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A New State of Mind: Colorado

8/18: 20.9 mi (1463.9 – 1482.8 + 2mi fire alternate)

We awoke to an awesome sunrise, and then it was downhill…very downhill, to coffee. Steep and rocky with no switchbacks, made for tedious foot work to keep from descending out of control.

Today was the day we would finish our third state of the CDT, Wyoming. Today we cross into Colorado. Breakfast in Wyoming and lunch in Colorado. Pretty cool we thought. There’s something special and invigorating about walking from one state to another.

Even better is coming upon impromptu trail magic. Just as we exited the single track trail, we came upon Mark, who, with his red truck and mountain bike, had “escaped” California, and the smoke from it’s fires.

He was on a lengthy camping/cycling/fishing trip. We talked at length about his, and our travels. He shared fresh fruit, and much needed water with us. He told us about the devastation the fires had near his home. It was when his cousin, around his age, who had completed a portion of the PCT died recently, that he realized life was short and he’d always wanted to do a “drive about” and see other states. We agreed that life is short and that’s why we take on the adventures we do.

Eventually it was time to get moving and make our way down the wide forest road, that was shared with massive logging trucks. Needless to say we have them wide berth when we heard them coming.

Forest road led to single track forest trail, and finally to our much anticipated Wyoming/Colorado border. No fan fare. No one to greet us, except maybe a curious doe, who wanted us to share our lunch with her.

FSR 500

Our foray and excitement into Colorado was somewhat thwarted, as at mile 1482.8 we had to begin an alternate path to skirt a fire closure. This entailed taking two forest roads to Hwy 129, and into Steamboat Springs.

Colorado also “welcomed” us with our first real rain of the hiking season. We donned our rain jackets and hoisted our umbrellas, but the rain became so intense that we had to duck under a stand of trees for nearly an hour, before venturing back on trail.

Because we were on a temporary alternate, we had no water information. We did however discover a spring nearly a mile into the alternate. It was more of a seep, but we were able to improve it, in true “hiker trash” ingenuity, so that collecting water would be infinitely easier.

Hiker’s trash can be useful sometimes

We knew a storm was brewing, and we were hoping to get into Steamboat Springs before it let loose. In true 2moremiles fashion, we had no such luck.

We had barely set up our tent on an old (unused) spur road off FSR 500 when the skies turned black and the wind began to roar…and then, the deluge began. The rain and wind did it’s best to punch it’s way through my side of our tent’s vestibule. Thunder rumbled for hours as flashes of lightning accented the night…and the interior of our tent.

8/19: FSR 500-550 to Hwy 129

The alarm went off at it’s usual ungodly hour. No audible signs of rain, even though a good portion of my sleeping bag and gear stowed inside was damp. (Paul’s side was nearly dry) I was thankful that I had decided before the deluge began to pull my pack inside the tent and stow it at my feet. Otherwise, everything would have been a sopping muddy mess.

FSR 550…before the skies drenched us

Reluctantly we packed in a hurry and began our march to Hwy 129 via FSR 550. Gray skies threatened as we walked, and then fulfilled upon their “promise”. It rained. The wind blew fiercely. We kept walking, not only to keep ourselves “warm”, but also because we knew it was only going to get worse. We stopped twice. Once to make coffee, in a tired attempt to warm up, and the second time, when we came upon a Forest Service bathroom, that was warm and dry…to put on an additional layer of dry clothing.

Fully drenched and now road walking down Hwy 129 several miles past Columbine, a couple from Salida Colorado, picked us up and gave us a ride in the back of their pick-up truck, we were so pathetic. They took us a few miles down the road to where they were headed out for a hike, and where it was NOT raining.

Thank You Katie!

From there, Katie picked us up and brought us all the way into Steamboat Springs, where we had packages to pick up at the post office.

She recommended Loco Taco Mexican Grill for quality Mexican food (of which we were craving), and The Rabbit Ears Motel. It was centrally located to where we needed to be.

8/19-20 Zero Miles!

We lounged and ate our way through Steamboat Springs and even caught the last weekend of the Steamboat Rodeo for an evening of entertainment. We even went to the Big Agnes outlet store in hopes of finding a bigger version of our tent (Tiger Wall UL2). No three person version available, but we did find out that if we contact BA, they often do trade-in, or trade ups of their products. We send them our TWUL2 and they will evaluate it’s condition, and allow us to apply that to, let’s say a Tiger Wall UL3. Pretty cool!

Resupply completed. Packages forwarded, and some articles sent home, we were ready to get back on trail, and see what Colorado has to offer.

Posted in Backpacking, Colorado, Continental Divide Trail, thru-hiking, Uncategorized | 4 Comments